Apple’s iCloud Services

Apple’s iCloud Services

Apple was late to the cloud services game and even after a number of years, in the arena, continues to play catch-up. That is not to say that they are failing in the cloud services arena, I just think they are still struggling to make their services “just work”.

How do I define cloud services for Apple? My definition would include any app that syncs data through the cloud across multiple devices or multiple accounts. Quite a few apps fit that definition as many apps use iCloud for syncing. To maintain brevity I am going to limit this discussion to Apple’s native apps.
– Apple Music
– Calendar
– Contacts
– Files App
– Home App
– iBooks
– iWorks
– Messages
– Notes
– Photos
– Podcast
– Reminders
– Safari
– TV App

I am also going to write a little about Keychain Access as I believe that is a very critical element in Apple’s cloud services as well. I realize this is not an exhaustive list but covers my world and potentially many of yours.

In general I have more success than issues with Apple’s cloud services. I used to run a server at my home so that I could have many of these services prior to Apple’s implementation. I, for one, am very happy to rid myself of the server administrator burden and just let Apple manage my content.

I address each app individually below.

Apple Music: I really like Apple Music. The created playlists and shared playlists both work well. I am able to see the music my friends listen to and let them know what I think of their choices. I have had some minor issues with syncing all my music to the cloud. Sometimes I think the issue is iTunes and not iCloud. All in all l don’t have any complaints about this service.

Calendar: Calendar is a rock solid application. I have a couple of calendars shared with family and those calendars sync with no issues.

Contacts: Contacts works solid for me but on my wife’s account we struggle with weird duplicates. I have tried to delete them a few times but due to the number of devices she uses with her account they always seem to come back. I think if we could get it clean it would work fine. My mom’s and kid’s accounts have no issues.

Files App: Relatively new to the game but works well. I had to logout of my iCloud account on my computer and chose to not keep the files that are in the cloud. All of the files returned after re-logging in, even the desktop files. Nice!

Home App (HomeKit): I have about 10 lights that work with HomeKit. I don’t ever have any issues with them working or using the Home App to set scenes. I know that Jeff Gamet of the TDO Podcast had a big issue the other day so that is another data point.

iBooks: I use this app regularly with great success. The location I am reading, in any given book, syncs well when I move between devices. I ran into a one time issue with book locations as I have different categories. I am not sure what happened but I can’t make it repeat.

iWorks Collaboration: I used the shared environment with my kids while they were in school. That worked well but is not a real-time collaboration system. The new system using is a little clunky but it does work and the participants are not required to have Apple IDs. I would like to see something a little easier to set up and use. However, even with Google Docs you must have a Google account. This collaboration system will need to see improvements for me to raise the marks.

Messages: I recognize that Messages in the cloud is still only available in beta. (I just happen to run public betas on all my devices.) The latest iteration in 11.4 Beta 1 has performed well. However, I still have issues where I delete a message on my iPhone that doesn’t delete on my Mac (I need to check the iPad when I see this behavior). The problem only seems to occur when messages are deleted when my Mac is closed and I don’t open it for use for 4 or 5 hours. The issue does not occur every time but more than 75% of the time. I would really like the Apple Watch to sync similarly as I don’t like to clean up messages on that device.

Notes: I really like what Apple has done with the Notes App. I used it every day and twice on Sundays. The notes stay in sync and are always available on all my devices. I seem to experience slow sync from iPad handwritten notes to other devices. These notes only contain handwritten text. All other notes that contain handwritten plus additional text or graphics don’t seem to experience the same lag.

Photos: The Photos app is one of my favorite as it allows me to carry every picture I have ever taken in my pocket. My current library is at about 27,800 photos and 95 videos. The syncing is fast and reliable. Album sharing amongst family and friends is virtually flawless. I have never lost photos or had random duplicates in my library. My only complaint, which has nothing to do with sync services, is the strange sort order. I would like most recent to be at the top of the list.

Podcasts: I use the Podcast App every day. I subscribe to about 10 different podcasts and all subscriptions have synced well in the cloud. All devices sync the time remaining well. However, I do have a couple of minor quirks that I can’t seem to figure out. One is on my, one and only, video podcast. If I watch on my Apple TV it syncs with my iPad but my iPhone doesn’t think I have watched at all. When I watch on my iPhone it syncs across all devices. The other quirk is on one or two podcasts where it knows I have listened but the iPad wants to know if I want to continue the subscription.

Reminders: I never have problems with syncing reminders across all devices. I have recently purchased the HomePod and haven’t done much testing with that system.

Safari: I almost didn’t include Safari as I really have no issues with the syncing that takes place. This one just works.

TV App: I like the way the TV App tracks my shows (sans Netflix). I use it so rarely on the iPad and iPhone that when I actually open the app it can take a few (maybe 10) minutes to sync. I don’t judge to harshly as that sync has not been requested in days or even weeks.

Keychain: I have used Keychain Access as my password manager for some time. I liked the sync between devices but at some point updated passwords failed to sync. Last week I logged out of my iCloud account on my Mac and when I logged back in all the sync came back and it has been stable since. Potentially the issues are related to running Betas.

Apple has made significant progress in their cloud service offerings with most working quite well. They still have some work to do to make the process seamless and more reliable. In addition, I think there is room for improvement in family groups sharing of data. I like their direction and look forward to seeing the next iterations.